Monday, September 24, 2012
Recently, I heard a panel of three experts speak on a business topic. The panel had thirty minutes to present. Unless I've forgotten everything from second grade math, that's ten minutes for each speaker. If you deduct time for Q & A, that leaves about 7.25 minutes for each presenter to get his or her point across.
The speakers were adequate in their presentation skills. They were superior in knowledge. Their content was of interest to the audience. And yet, I wanted to jump off the nearest ledge. (Considering this was a first floor meeting room, this wasn't much of a risk.) The mike worked. The projector bulb was fresh. I could read the slides. My stomach was full of a cholesterol-infused breakfast. Yet, I wanted to run screaming from the room. Now, I realize that since I coach individuals on presentation skills, I may be a bit hypersensitive and critical, but I wasn't alone in my frustration.
Why, do you wonder, would I want to run screaming from the room? Because the presenters tried to cram a full-day workshop into 30 minutes. They spoke quickly to cover all points. They had many slides chock-full of bullet points, which they read to the audience. The bullet points weren't revealed one at a time, so the audience was reading ahead of each speaker. There was very little explanation of major points and fewer examples that could elucidate the meaning behind the bullet statements. Jargon and acronyms abounded.
What to do if you're asked to cover a topic in a brief amount of time.
1. Find out what the interests of your audience are and speak to those. You can do this with a survey before your presentation or just by visiting with the audience beforehand.
2. Follow the 75% rule. If you're asked to speak for 1 hour, plan for 45 minutes. It always takes longer to speak than you think. The session will start late. Announcements will run over. Equipment will fail. Interruptions happen. And, if you should happen to finish early, no one will complain.
3. Ask yourself, "What is the one thing; the most important point I want the audience to walk away with. Declare that point. Illustrate it with stories, statistics, and examples and be done.
4. Ask yourself, "What is the action I want the audience to take?" Actually, you might ask this question twice. You want them to take an action for their sake and you want them to take an action for your sake. You may want them to diversify and you may want them to call you. Emphasize the action for their sake; give them enough, but not too much great information and the action for your sake will take care of itself.
5. Converse with your audience instead of "making" a presentation. You know your stuff, don't you? Then, just chat about it.
6. When giving complicated information that the audience might not be familiar with, say, "What this means for you is..." Then tell them what that means for them in their lives at this stage. That statement closes the gap between your knowledge and their needs. It also gets the audience's attention.
7. Please don't read those bullets. I can read. In fact, I finished reading way before you finished speaking and now I'm jotting down my grocery list.
8. If you must use bullets, limit to six bullets and no more than six words per slide.??9. Use some photos and color if you want people to remember your words.
10. Slow down. If you don't have too much material to cover in the time allotted, you can engage the audience.
11. Don't use jargon and acronyms. If you must, explain the jargon and spell out the acronym the first time you reference them.
12. Have a handout with a few vital points to be remembered and your contact information. This is not a copy of your PowerPoint(tm).??13. Be prepared to give your presentation without PowerPoint(tm). That will help you winnow your information down to the most important points and you'll be forced to illustrate your points with stories and examples.
You can keep me from jumping out of ground floor doorways and running screaming from meeting rooms if you'll only put 3.75 pounds of flour in a 5 pound sack.